The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) attacked the American Cable Association (ACA) for asking for an exemption from dual must-carry rules associated with the digital television transition, compelling the ACA to fire back, restating its case and throwing in an accusation of extortion to boot.
The FCC currently has a proviso that allows small operators to file for such an exemption, but the ACA argues the process is unduly burdensome for the smallest cable companies. The ACA filed a request with the FCC seeking blanket exemption for small independent cable providers.
The NAB has been intransigent when it comes to dual must-carry, even for small companies the NAB must know cannot afford to comply. Subsequent to the ACA’s filing of its request, NAB executive vice president Dennis Wharton published a statement that says, “Cable operators can't have it both ways. They cannot make grandiose claims of spending billions on digital upgrades, while asserting that they still lack sufficient channel capacity to carry local broadcast channels.”
ACA president and CEO Matt Polka shot back: “Our members who would be covered by ACA's requested exemption aren't the ones who made the ‘grandiose claims of spending billions on digital upgrades.’ They wish they had it for their customers' sake. But they don't because NAB ultimately wants them to spend what little they do have on dual-carriage and other mandates.
“It is the broadcasters who should not have it both ways – simultaneously lobbying to defend their right to extort hundreds of millions of dollars in retransmission consent fees from independent cable operators and then demanding that these same small businesses pay for costly equipment to carry must-carry signals in both analog and digital formats,” Polka continued.
“For many small cable operators, there is not enough capacity or money to comply with a dual-carriage obligation and at the same time have the necessary resources to roll out advanced services, such as broadband, that are critical to the rural communities they serve. The exemption ACA has requested is not only reasonable, but also practical and appropriate, and we urge the FCC to approve exemptions for small systems with limited resources."
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